Jemisin continues to play with POV and split narration in The Obelisk Gate. In this novel which picks up immediately after the events of The Fifth Season, we primarily focus on Essun at Castrima and her daughter Nassun who is travelling with her father. Essun is still at Castrima while Nassun makes her way to a sanctuary for young orogenes led by Schaffa, the Guardian.
There is a deeper exploration of magic in The Obelisk Gate which was very fun. What I find to be especially wonderful about Jemisin’s writing is that not only does she find ways of explore this magical system, she also connects everything back to the characters and their stories. There’s nothing that feels like it was shoehorned in just because it would be cool or easy for the characters. For example, Essun has to unlearn and relearn so much of what she was taught about orogeny. She has to confront the stereotypes and prejudices that she learned about how orogeny can and should be used as well as the people who use it.
There’s also a powerful exploration on doing what is necessary no matter the cost. Many characters are forced to make incredibly challenging decisions that will have massive impacts on themselves and their communities. Alabaster has already made massive decisions and we see in this book how those decisions affect him (it’s not always pretty). Essun and Nassun both go through their own internal struggle on morality and what is right versus what is needed. Ykka makes decisions for Castrima as a leader that challenge her, the community she leads in order to protect as many people as possible. There’s not clear answer on what the best way is to make decisions because everyone’s situation is so unique. Jemisin balances that nuance expertly.